Pitching and defense win baseball games no matter what time of year it is. In the postseason, they're that much more important.
And if a team doesn't get both in October, those deficiencies are magnified that much more.
Milwaukee painfully found out how true that axiom can be, falling 3-1 at Philadelphia in Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series on Wednesday.
Second baseman Rickie Weeks' steel glove on a sacrifice bunt—Bill Hall's bobble preceded it and prevented a potential double play—helped the hosts score three unearned runs in the third. Still, the Brewers could have survived unscathed had center fielder held onto Chase Utley's line drive in windy conditions, which was ruled a double but was a play that a three-time Gold Glove winner needed to make.
So, Philly grabbed a 3-0 lead against Yovani Gallardo, who walked five but deserved a much better fate.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia made several nice defensive plays to keep Milwaukee from retaliating against southpaw Cole Hamels, who struck out nine in eight shutout innings, many of them whiffs against his biting changeup low and out of the strike zone.
The Brewers' bullpen, especially Carlos Villaneuva, shut the explosive Phillies down after that, but the still mostly hibernating Milwaukee offense didn't do any damage until the ninth.
That's when things got interesting at Citizens Bank Park. The Brewers touched closer Brad Lidge for two hits—the same output they had against Hamels—as Ray Durham's single, Ryan Braun's double, a walk to J.J. Hardy and a wild pitch had cut the deficit to 3-1 and put runners on second and third.
The Brewers can sleep well knowing that CC Sabathia is throwing Game 2 on Thursday in hopes of gaining a split before heading to Miller Park for the weekend. And although he wasn't exactly sharp, they know that Gallardo can be counted again should they need another start from him.
However, they must tighten up defensively and have to manufacture some offense against righty Brett Myers, who two-hit them in the dreadful four-game sweep that cost Ned Yost his job.
The defense should improve in Game 2 because Durham should start at second and Craig Counsell should be at the hot corner.
Game 1 was disappointing and frustrating to be sure, but it also proved that the situation wasn't too big for the young, less-playoff savvy Brewers. So there also should be plenty of optimism in the Milwaukee clubhouse.